Who’s Who is a brand new video essay series that lives on my YouTube Channel. But each episode starts with a written script, which I’ve reworked below for your reading pleasure.
For 90’s kids like me, Static Shock was mainstay on Saturday mornings. It took 20 years for me to realize that Static actually got his start in comics — and that there was a whole universe of characters around him. In case you also aren’t familiar with the roots of this awesome hero, we’re diving all the way in with today’s installment of Who’s Who.
Static was created by Michael Davis, Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan and Derek Dingle; and made his first appearance in comics in Static #1 from June of 1993. We can’t talk about Static without mentioning the publisher that made him happen – Milestone Media.
To keep it brief, Milestone Media was a comic book publisher founded by 4 black men (the aforementioned Cowan, McDuffie, Davis and Dingle) – with the expressed goal of bringing more diverse characters and creators to the comic book medium. Their initial run lasted from 1993 – 1997, thanks to a groundbreaking distribution deal with DC Comics. In those years, they sold millions of books and became the largest black-owned comic book publisher in history. Milestone gave us several notable heroes including Hardware, Icon and the Blood Syndicate; but no character ended up being as successful as the subject of today’s essay — Static.
In street clothes, Static is better known as 14 year old Virgil Hawkins. Your typical nerd, Virgil enjoys comic books, video games, Pokemon cards and even tabletop RPG games. (Yeah… THAT kind of nerd.)
As you can imagine, Static is picked on a lot; and has developed quite the witty personality as a result. If you’ve ever seen the cartoon, you know what I mean. He’s always got a wisecrack, and his smart alec personality gets him into more trouble than he can handle at times.
After a particular instance of public humiliation by his bully – gang member Biz Money Bee – Virgil decides he has to finally take action. He borrows a gun from an older friend and decides he’s going to shoot him. The best place to strike? The Big Bang – a huge fight planned between all the rival gangs of Dakota City.
Static visits the Big Bang, but ultimately decides not to go through with the shooting. Just as he’s about to leave, the police descend on the fight, and tear gas all the participants. The tear gas contains an experimental agent designed to tag all the participants for later arrest – but something goes wrong. The tear gas kills hundreds, But those who don’t die develop superhuman powers. You could say Virgil was one of the lucky ones.
Static’s powers are electromagnetic. For starters, he can generate electricity. This allows him to shock enemies, generate force fields for protection, and use things like manhole covers and trash can lids as transportation—he can also magnetize objects and cause people or objects to stick to one another through a strong static cling. In my opinion, the best part about Static is watching him use his scientific knowledge to find new ways to use his powers to his advantage.
JUMPING ON POINTS
If you’re looking to get into Static, luckily, there are several GREAT jumping on points. The origin I explained today comes from Static’s original comic book series from 1993. You can get the first 8 issues, PLUS the beginnings of every other character in the Dakota Universe in the recently released Milestone Compendium — or check out the individual series digitally with a subscription to DC Universe Infinite.
If you’re looking for a more modern version of the story, you can check out Static Season One — a brand new reboot written by Vita Ayala with anime-inspired art by Nikolas Draper Ivey. It’s part of the Milestone Returns series from 2021, which showcases updated origins to each of the classic Milestone heroes. It offers a great glimpse into Static dealing with the challenges of developing superpowers, and really shows the power of his loving, supportive family and friends.
I can’t talk about Static without mentioning his award winning animated series. Debuting in the year 2000, Static Shock was produced by original co-creator Denys Cowan, with Dwayne McDuffie serving as writer and story editor. While there are some changes made to his supporting cast, Static Shock is pretty faithful to the source material, and dives into surprisingly deep topics for a show aimed at children.
Static Shock holds a special place in my heart, as it was my first time seeing a black superhero on TV. You can watch all 4 seasons on HBO Max.